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Jewish World Review Oct. 18, 2002 / 11 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald
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Consumer Reports

The sniper knocks Iraq off the covers | TV coverage of the sniper killings in the Washington, D.C. area is getting out of hand.

It's not just that the same three ex-FBI profilers and cerebrally challenged airheads like Connie Chung are on the cable networks every night trying to guess the "Beltway Sniper's" motives or whether he's a sniper wannabe or copycatting a movie or a video game.

The sniper is starting to become a mystery celebrity.

On "Fox and Friends" the other morning, the hosts were taking phone calls from viewers for a classy little feature called "You be the profiler."

This is how dumb game shows get born.

Needless to say, the Big Three news magazines never sink to such idiocy in their full-press coverage of what now seems like a scary Clint Eastwood movie come-to-life - but with no Dirty Harry to make our day by gunning down the creep.

Time, Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report each put the sniper story on their covers.

The choice was a no-brainer. The sniper - or snipers - is the biggest national news story since 9/11 and in many ways more terrifying to every American, as the magazines' photos of bullet holes in crafts store windows and frightened parents escorting kids to school show.

U.S. News, for some silly reason, calls him "The Quicksilver Sniper." Newsweek calls him the "Tarot Card Killer." Time, which attaches its sniper coverage to an eight-page article about "How Science Solves Crimes," dubs him simply "The Beltway Sniper."

Each magazine supplies the basic facts, at least as far as they were known late Saturday. Each provides well-illustrated lessons on what high-powered .223 caliber bullets do to human flesh and how each bullet and shell casing has a ballistic fingerprint.

Newsweek's eight-page sniper package is probably the best and most comprehensive. It's got the most powerful, and only graphic, news photo - a shot of the bloodied body of the sniper's seventh victim as he lay crumpled by a gas pump.

Meanwhile, as we wait for the sniper to be caught, as he surely will, war with Iraq gets closer. Time's Iraq stories this week include "The Tools of War," which shows how much smarter and deadlier our weaponry is today than in the Gulf War of 1991.

But Newsweek offers "Saddam's Sons," which quotes CIA guys who say the best way to think of Saddam Hussein is as a mafia don running a criminal enterprise - "The Godfather" with chemical and biological weapons.

That means even if Saddam is bumped off, our troubles with Iraq won't automatically end. Power will likely pass to one of his gothically monstrous sons, the reckless/violent/oversexed Uday (think Sonny Corleone) or the "calmer, colder and ultimately more dangerous" Qusay (think Michael Corleone).

Newsweek's unconfirmed tales of Uday's over-the-top savagery are hard to believe: He supposedly grabbed a woman off the street, raped her in a nearby hotel room while his guards watched and threw her off the sixth-floor balcony.

Qusay, who runs Iraq's security forces, is no better. He likes to watch people being tortured. Newsweek's piece, which borders on sensationalism, depicts the brothers as interchangeable thugs. The only thing they hate more than each other is the United States.

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JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.

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10/04/02: Buchanan the media baron?
09/27/02: Analyzing Esquire, GQ is not for the squeamish
09/20/02: CEOs: The rise and fall of American heroes
09/13/02: Skeptics remind U.S. to calm down
09/10/02: 'A failure to recognize a failure': 15 minutes with ... Bill Gertz
09/06/02: Rating the 9-11 mags
08/30/02: Bad trains, bad planes, and bad automobiles
08/28/02: Baseball, broken, can be fixed: 15 minutes with George Will
08/16/02: 9-11 overload has already begun
08/13/02: Tell us what you really think, Ann Coulter
08/09/02: A funny take on a new kind of suburb
08/02/02: It's not the humidity, it's the (media) heat wave; the death of American cities
07/12/02: Colombia's drug lords are all business
07/09/02: If capitalism is 'soulless' then show me something better: 10 minutes with Alan Reynolds
06/25/02: Origins of a scandal: 10 minutes with Michael Rose
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06/18/02: The FBI is rebounding 10 Minutes with Ronald Kessler
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06/11/02: 10 minutes with William Lind: Can America survive in this 'fourth-generation' world?
06/07/02: America, warts and all
05/30/02: FBI saga gets more depressing
05/13/02: The magazine industry's annual exercise in self-puffery
04/30/02: 10 Minutes with ... The New York Sun's Seth Lipsky
04/26/02: Will the American Taliban go free?
04/23/02: 10 minutes with ... Dinesh D'Souza
04/19/02: Saddam starting to show his age
04/12/02: Newsweek puts suicide bombing in perspective
04/09/02: How polls distort the news, change the outcome of elections and encourage legislation that undermines the foundations of the republic
04/05/02: Looking into the state of American greatness
03/25/02: The American President and the Peruvian Shoeshine Boys
03/22/02: Troublemaking intellectual puts Churchill in spotlight
03/20/02: 10 minutes with ... Bill Bennett
03/18/02: Suddenly, it's cool again to be a man
03/12/02: 10 minutes with Ken Adelman
03/08/02: TIME asks the nation a scary question
03/05/02: 10 minutes with ... Rich Lowry
02/26/02: 10 minutes with ... Tony Snow
02/12/02: Has Soldier of Fortune gone soft?

© 2002, Bill Steigerwald